Church of the Tithes

The Church of the Tithes or Church of the Dormition of the Virgin (Ukrainian: Десятинна Церква, Desiatynna Tserkva; Russian: Десятинная Церковь, Desyatinnaya Tserkov') was the first stone church in Kyiv.[1] Originally it was built by the order of Grand Prince Vladimir (Volodymyr) the Great between 989 and 996[1] by Byzantine and local workers at the site of death of martyrs Theodor the Varangian and his son Johann. It was originally named the "Church of Our Lady", in honor of the Dormition of the Theotokos. The church was ruined in 1240 during the siege of Kyiv by Mongol armies of Batu Khan.

Church of the Dormition of the Virgin
Desjatynna westerfeld.jpg
The ruined Church of the Tithes in the 1650s, drawn by Abraham van Westerveld.
AffiliationEastern Orthodox Church
ProvinceKyiv Metropolis
RiteEcumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
LocationKyiv, Ukraine
Church of the Tithes
Church of the Tithes is located in Ukraine Kyiv
Church of the Tithes
Shown within Kyiv
LocationKyiv, Ukraine
Coordinates50°27′28″N 30°31′03″E / 50.4577777878°N 30.51750001°E / 50.4577777878; 30.51750001Coordinates: 50°27′28″N 30°31′03″E / 50.4577777878°N 30.51750001°E / 50.4577777878; 30.51750001
BuilderVolodymyr of Kyiv
Founded10th century AD
PeriodsKyivan Rus, Russian Empire
CulturesOld Ruthenian, Russian
Site notes

Vladimir set aside a tithe of his income and property to finance the church's construction and maintenance, which gave the church its popular name.

On an initiative of the Metropolitan of Kyiv Eugene Bolkhovitinov, the church was rebuilt in the mid-19th century, but in 1928 it was once again destroyed by the Soviet regime.[1]

Medieval churchEdit

By Vladimir's order, the remains of his grandmother Princess Olga, the first Christian ruler of Rus', were reburied in this church.[2] Vladimir and his wife, Princess Anna, the sister of Byzantine Emperor Basil II, were also buried in the Church of the Tithes.

The church was seriously damaged in the fire of 1017 and was rebuilt by Yaroslav and rededicated in 1039.[3] In 1044, Yaroslav would make the church a mausoleum for Kyivan princes, having the remains of Yaropolk and Oleg baptised and interred.[2]

In 1171 and 1203, the church was sacked[3] and in 1240 it was used by Kyivans as the last refuge while the city was being ravaged by the hordes of Batu Khan,[3] when it finally collapsed from fire. Chernihiv's Saviour Cathedral (1036) is an extant structure supposed to reproduce the dimensions and exterior appearance of the original Church of the Tithes.

The 17th century Church of the Tithes rebuilt on efforts of Metropolitan Peter.

Replacement buildingsEdit

In the early 19th century, another metropolitan bishop, Eugene Bolkhovitinov, had the site excavated. Under his administration, a new church of the Tithes was built in stone (between 1828 and 1842).[4] Its Russian Revival design by Vasily Stasov had little in common with the medieval original. In 1935 Stasov's church was destroyed by the Soviet authorities.

The 19th century Church of the Tithes.

Plans for reconstructionEdit

Coin of Ukraine, featuring Volodymyr the Great and a model of the church

A plan to rebuild the church is under consideration in Kyiv. Proponents of reconstruction point out the historical and political importance of rebuilding a church so significant in Eastern Slavic history. Opponents refer to the lack of any documentary descriptions or depictions of the original church, and that excavations were unable to determine even the layout of its foundation. Besides, the monumental building of the new church is likely to be in disharmony with the delicate 18th-century St. Andrew's Church, one of the most famous landmarks of Kyiv, located adjacent to the original location of the destroyed Church of the Tithes. Its reconstruction would also require the destruction of the city's oldest tree, a 370-year-old linden. On 3 February 2005, the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, signed a decree on the restoration of the Tithe Church, to which the state budget provides nearly 90 million hryvnia ($18 million). In 2006, an Orthodox tabernacle was established near Desyatynna church. In 2007, a wooden church was built in the location of the tabernacle, consecrated by Primate of the UOC Metropolitan Volodymyr on July 25 of that year.

On July 9, 2009, at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, it was decided to open the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Desyatynnyi monastery in Kyiv and appoint as governor Gideon Archimandrite (Charon). In January 2010, Kyiv's Head of Urban Planning, Architecture and Urban Environment Design, Sergii Tsilovalnyk, reported that a platform will be built on the ruins of the Tithe church to serve as a foundation for the new church, which will belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).[5]

Modern view of the site where the church was once located

List of burialsEdit

Within its premises the church had a princely tomb.

The remnants of Anna of Byzantium and Vladimir the Great were first reburied in the Church of the Saviour and later in the Dormition Cathedral of Kyiv Caves Monastery. Some remnants were reburied in the Saint Sophia's Cathedral.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b c Mariya Lesiv, The Return of Ancestral Gods: Modern Ukrainian Paganism as an Alternative Vision for a Nation, (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2013), 105.
  2. ^ a b The Notion of "Uncorrupted Relics" in Early Russian Culture, Gail Lenhoff, Christianity and the Eastern Slavs: Slavic cultures in the Middle Ages, Vol. I, ed. B. Gasparov, Olga Raevsky-Hughes, (University of California Press, 1993), 264.
  3. ^ a b c The Earliest Mediaeval Churches of Kiev, Samuel H. Cross, H. V. Morgilevski and K. J. Conant, Speculum, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Oct., 1936), 482.
  4. ^ Michael F. Hamm, Kiev: A Portrait, 1800-1917, (Princeton University Press, 1993), 234.
  5. ^ Website Desyatinny Monastery of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-27. Retrieved 2011-06-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)